I did it! My God, I did it! But that was simply the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
After getting a couple of hours sleep after my, now traditional pre-race meal of pizza and red wine, we woke up to a gloriously sunny Sunday morning. This was much to our surprise as the weather forecast had predicted rain so we hadn't planned a trip to Spain for warm weather training and the winter hadn't furnished us with that many hot days. So off came the jumpers, thermals and ponchos, and off Gil and I headed to the train station for one of many queues we were to encounter that day. Eventually we arrived at the start area at 9.15am. The organisation at the start was brilliant, we dropped our bags off with TNT, got vaselined up (always a novel experience in front of 30,000+ people) and got to our start point with the masses.
And then we were underway! At 9.45 we set off at a slow walk till we reached the start line, where we began to run at a nice, steady pace. Instantly we were overtaken by a giant dog and Superman, followed very shortly by Scooby Doo. We didn't panic and just kept our pace up, passed the first mile point dead on 10 minutes and kept that pace going and sure enough, at around the fourth mile, there was that bloody giant dog, going backwards rapidly. My first small victory!
Then, by Cutty Sark, Superman succumbed to the heat (man of steel, my backside!) and we passed him, too. That just left Scooby Doo on my hit list.
We were still feeling good, if a little warm, and were taking on plenty of water, which has its pitfalls. So after another Paula-break and the offers of plenty of sweets and fruit (and the offer of a few beers, which was very tempting) from the crowds who lined the streets we finally reached the second major landmark: Tower Bridge, two hours into the race.
What an awesome sight it is, running under the bridge and trying to avoid Sally Gunnell's microphone. We were rapidly approaching the halfway mark and had maintained a good 10-minute mile pace so far. However both Gil and I were beginning to feel the heat now and were getting a bit tired. The muscles were working fine, the lungs were working well and Scooby Doo was still in my sights - I could tell by the many shouts of "Scooby snacks" and "Scooby Doo, where are you?" Secretly, I was beginning to feel sorry for him having to listen to that all the way round, but I was still going to beat him.
13 miles came and went, and then the halfway point in 2:10. We headed towards the East End at a good 10-minute mile pace, with fantastic crowds and a now very sun-tanned, bald head!
We went passed 14 miles, 15 miles, 16 miles and into Docklands and there was Scooby Doo, just ahead of me. Mine at last. Mwaahaahaa, mwaahaahaa! If it hadn't been for those pesky kids I'd have had him earlier.
The crowds thinned out a bit around Docklands, and we were now beginning to feel the pain. Our legs were very tired, and the lungs were beginning to ache, but we maintained our speed through the Docklands and back out into East London again. Now it was really hurting: mile 20 and Gil and I didn't have the energy to speak any more.
Then it happened! Mile 21 and I hit the wall. I'd never hit it before, and my God did it hurt. My body gave up, my legs were lead and my stomach began feeding on itself. Every ounce of energy I had left was going into propelling myself forward, and we still had five miles to run. By the time we reached Embankment, nothing around me mattered anymore.
My legs had totally seized up - trying to move one foot in front of the other was taking up all of my willpower and I was running on empty. By mile 24 I was at my lowest point. I was seriously wondering if I was going to make it. I was in extreme physical discomfort and I was beginning to have negative thoughts when, out of nowhere comes this hand from the crowd, holding the holy grail - a Kit-Kat!
Never have I been so happy to see a chocolate bar in my life. "You want this, mate?" came the voice, sounding like an angel from above, or at least as much of an angel as a 6-foot, chubby, cockney bloke can sound!
I would have hugged him if I'd had the energy to stop! It was enough sugar to give me the energy boost I needed to get another mile, and then it was only be 1.2 miles to go. By this time people were dropping like flies around me, I was still running - or a feeble excuse of trying to look like I was running - and just concentrating on keeping my feet going.
Finally I got to the 26-mile marker, though instead of marking 26 miles, it said 800 metres to go. Five or six more minutes running and I'd be there. It was the longest 800 metres of my life. All I could think about was not falling over. And finally I came round the corner onto the Mall and there it was, the finish line!
As soon as I saw the finish line I burst into tears - relief, emotional release, joy, pain, everything came flooding out. I must have looked like a right loony, hobbling up the Mall, sobbing like a child, but I didn't care. There was nobody else around me, no spectators, no crowds, no noise, nothing - just me heading towards the finishing line. I crossed the line in 4:25 but I didn't care about the time. I'd done it! I'd completed the London Marathon without walking, and I had my medal!
Things got kind of messy after that. I managed to keep most of my innards where they belonged, though most people around me seemed to be having trouble. I had to hang onto a barrier for a few minutes to stop myself from falling over, which worried one of the medal givers who came rushing over to make sure I was okay. I blubbed at him, sobbed a bit and I think he got the message that I was fine.
So what do you do when you've just run 26.2 miles and feel like death? Yup, that pint tasted good though the second wasn't such a good idea! However, walking into a pub in Notting Hill, being applauded and then having loads of attractive ladies coming to chat to you about the marathon was a bonus! I must go back to that pub again some time!
Thank you all of you who sponsored me and helped me raise over £800 for the Roald Dahl Foundation. You are all stars, and I couldn't have done it without your support.
The final word on the matter and the question everyone has asked: Will I do it again? No! Never! Well, until next time maybe.